Two weeks ago, while reading Deep Work by Cal Newport, I decided to take up his challenge to go on a four week social media fast.
There are many arguments in the book for doing it, but the ones that resonated most for me were the addictive nature of Facebook in particular (Twitter seems even more so for some, but doesn’t have the same appeal to me). I had had too many instances of waking up from a session of skipping from one thing to another in Facebook, and just felt a bit sick of it all. The challenge was there on a day I was feeling like that so I decided to take it.
The most striking thing about the challenge in the book is that you don’t tell people you’re going to do it. You don’t make a grand gesture exit, nor do you tell people to get in touch by other ways*. You just stop going. I decided to avoid Facebook for four weeks and Twitter and LinkedIn similarly but with a couple of exceptions.
In my other mindfulness business I’d just launched a customer survey; I knew that most of the people on my mail list came from Facebook so I allowed myself to place a couple of posts in the Edinburgh Mindfulness Facebook page to get the survey to its intended audience. With LinkedIn I set up an email notification if anyone sent a private message but other than that I would avoid it.
How does it feel doing without Facebook?
I’m two weeks into it now. How does it feel?
- the main ‘twitch’ I’ve felt was the urge to share music or videos I’ve discovered with my friends; that felt frustrating and counter-habitual (good!) but it passed and by the next day I’d usually forgotten about it, so it wasn’t that important
- I really noticed it in ‘downtime’, sitting on a bus, waiting for someone, or just relaxing on the sofa – the habit of just looking in every spare moment to see what’s interesting. It’s just a habit. I’ve replaced it in most instances with just sitting quietly looking and listening to what’s really going on; in weaker moments I displaced the urge into reading news sites and Feedly a bit more than I used to, a few times a day rather than once as before. So there’s still an element of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) but in week 2 I’ve noticed it diminishing.
- one thing I really don’t miss – political entries on Facebook; it’s a big relief in fact. Anything to do with the EU referendum and that other referendum; I enjoy being released from the duty of reading the articles and then the streams of vitriol in the comments. I feel cleaner for that.
- I missed out in terms of promoting a couple of gigs I was doing, which I normally do in Facebook; it’s hard to do without it for that. I asked others to promote it but don’t know if they did.
- The urge to tell people where I’d been when I’d done something exciting (Springsteen in Dublin, Content Marketing Academy in Edinburgh); I had a bit of resistance to leaving that behind but it didn’t bother me for long
- Twitter, which I’ve never really enjoyed, became more of a temptation and I dipped into it to enjoy the buzz of Springsteen in Dublin. That was curious.
- Do I feel better? Yes. I feel like I have more time and more control over my time. But distraction is always a temptation and if it ain’t Facebook it can easily be something else. So I’ve learned how pernicious distractability and lack of focus can be. But generally it’s positive. Two weeks to go!
- Isn’t it a contradiction to say you don’t tell people you’re doing it then blab here? Not really. My main target is Facebook addiction and very few of my FB friends will read this blog, especially if I don’t link to it in FB. And yes this will appear in Twitter but it’s an automated share so my hands are clean!